Maternity Care In Greece: What The Options Are And How To Decide On A Birth Plan

The Greek health system runs on a two-tiered approach: the national health service provides care for all working residents, regardless of the length of their stay; and private healthcare covers everyone else, and also helps people in the interim period before their public health registration has been processed.If you are employed, or if you do not have a job but are making the mandatory tax payments, then maternity care will be free for you in public hospitals. If not, then you will have to pay for any non-emergency care, including childbirth and pre- and post-natal care.

Even those who are eligible for free maternity care on the state health system often choose to take out private medical insurance, since this affords a wider range of choice, and the private maternity hospitals in Athens and Thessaloniki have excellent reputations in comparison to their public counterparts.

Prenatal Care

Whether you are going the private or public route in Greece, you will need to set up your initial maternity care yourself. This will include registering with a specialist and booking yourself in for pre-natal tests and appointments. If you already have a general doctor in Greece, they should be able to help you with this.

Consulting doctoranytime.gr will provide you with a list of practitioners that can be sorted and filtered based on whether they are public or private, where they are based, and the kinds of treatments they offer. You can also ask around in your local area for recommendations, and talk to other expats online to see if they have any tips.

Greece has a lower birth rate than many other European countries, so the competition for hospital places is not as high as it is elsewhere in Europe. However, part of the reason for the low birth rate is the relatively high cost of maternity care, including hidden costs that you might not be aware of when you first sign up.

The costs of maternity care can be high

If you go down the private route, then you will probably be quoted somewhere in the region of €3000-7000 for giving birth in a hospital. The price will depend on where you have your baby — Athens is much more expensive than Thessaloniki, for instance — and whether you opt for a private room or a bed in a maternity ward.

However, there have been several reports of people being told they should undergo certain tests during the pre-natal period, and then discovering that these tests come at an added cost. Make sure you fully understand whether, and why, the tests the doctors are doing are necessary, and ask them to give you a list of expected tests upfront that will be covered in the quote they have given you. If they then recommend more tests, do not be afraid to take a couple of days to go away and think about it.

Bear in mind that urgent care is free on the public health system, so if you are seriously worried about something that happens during your pregnancy you can always visit your public doctor and ask for any necessary tests there instead.

Giving Birth

There is a gradual rise in the number of home births in Greece, although it is still more popular by far to give birth in a hospital. If you do decide on a home birth, you will need to pay for your maternity care privately, since this is not currently covered by the state health system. There are a number of different companies operating in Athens and Thessaloniki that help women in this situation — take a look online or ask other expats for recommendations.

There are companies in Athens and Thessaloniki that deal with home births

If something happens during a home birth that means you need to be taken to hospital as an emergency case, then all of this care will be provided for free at the point of service as long as you have called an ambulance using the public emergency number (112 or 166) rather than being taken to a private hospital. Before your due date, make sure you have discussed all these eventualities with your midwife and anyone else who will be in the room while you are giving birth, so that you can ensure your wishes are followed.

Once you have given birth, your midwife will need to make a declaration of the birth, which you can then take with you to follow-up medical appointments, and to your local town hall (dimarchio) to register the child.

If you do not have public health cover in Greece — for example, if you are a student or a retiree who is not making tax contributions — then a hospital birth will probably set you back a few hundred euros. The final amount will depend on how long you have to stay in hospital and whether you requested any extra medications during delivery.

In 2012 the BBC reported on a worrying trend where women were giving birth in public hospitals but were unable to pay for their maternity care, and were then being told that they would not be allowed to take their babies home until the payments were settled. Although these cases are rare, it seems like they do still happen from time to time, so it really is imperative to make sure you have planned for any necessary care during childbirth.

Post-Natal Care

If you are moving to Greece from another European country, such as the Netherlands, you might be surprised to find that there are no provisions for midwives or health visitors coming to the house to help the mother and child adjust after the birth. Instead, women usually stay in hospital for a few days following the birth, and then are sent home with the details of a paediatrician who will be in touch with them when their baby’s vaccinations are due.

There is less post-natal care in Greece than you might have been used to back home

About six weeks after giving birth, you will normally be requested to go back to the same hospital where you gave birth to your baby, and both you and the baby will have a general check-up to make sure you are in good health. You can then schedule in your vaccinations, or you can wait to talk to your paediatrician about this at a later date.

You can choose to hire a private company for post-natal care, and you will find several of these in Athens and Thessaloniki, although they are less widely available than in other European nations.

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